Most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by around mid-February. Pre-PA students typically do not suffer from lack of motivation; and I am inclined to think that your resolutions would make it at least a few weeks or months longer those of the average person.
However, with the number of steps required to prepare for PA school, your to-do list can seem never ending. So why not recast the traditional resolution as a specific short-term goal?
Rather than making a lifestyle change that you are unlikely maintain, commit to a single goal with a narrow focus that you can accomplish in just a few weeks.
Setting aside the many tasks that you have yet to do in order to focus your energy on one area can be difficult. It can feel like you are ignoring the big picture and getting lost in the details. However, focusing on just one aspect of PA school prep will ultimately help you with your overall plan.
You can start knocking down your task list by concentrating with on a single goal with laser-like focus over the next 5 weeks. Here is how to start putting your to-do list in action.
Week 1 - Identify your laser-focused goal
Spend the first week thinking about what your next PA school prep step should be. Start by writing down all of the tasks that you need complete. I mean all of them - find out about PCE certification, retake that sophomore genetics course, investigate local hospitals for volunteer opportunities, find PA programs that calculate GPA from more recent courses, figure out who to ask for letters of recommendation, see if the community college science courses count for that one PA program.
Just get it all out. These are the tasks that swim around in your head, making you feel overwhelmed and lost on what step to take next. You may have half heartedly started looking into some of these before, only to put it off for another time.
During week 1, take a few days to consider what you wrote. What is the most important step for you to take next? It might not be your most important step overall, but it should be the most important to do right now.
Once you have decided, rewrite the task as a goal - “get a PCE position” becomes “get certified as a CNA through the Red Cross”. Writing down a goal exponentially increases your chances of accomplishing it, so write it down and leave it in plain sight.
Week 2 - Investigate how to accomplish your laser-focused goal
You have identified your goal and committed to focusing on this goal for 5 weeks. Next, identify what actions you need to take to get your goal off of the ground. Take this seriously. You have probably done a quick check on this before, but this time, you will take action.
How do you register for the PCE certification? How long is the training? What is the start date? Get all of the details you need to be ready to act in week 3.
If in your investigation you find that you will not be able to take action by week 3, go back and reset your goal to one that you can act on next week.
Week 3 - Take action
You have identified your laser-focused goal and investigated how you will accomplish it. Now, it is time to demonstrate your commitment to the plan.
Register for your prerequisite course, sign up to volunteer and get a start date, start making contact for possible shadowing opportunities, or start your CASPA application.
Whatever your goal, start taking action on week 3. Do not delay taking action, you need to make strides now to accomplish your big picture plan.
Week 4 - Size up your laser-focused goal with your big picture plan
Evaluate how this short term goal fits into your long term plan. Map out how many shifts it will take to get your total PCE goal, consider how long you want to continue to shadow, or plan how frequently you will volunteer.
Evaluating how your goal fits into your overall plan will help you determine how much time and energy to devote to it.
Keep taking action in week 4 by continuing to contact potential PA mentors, set up shadowing dates, create a regular volunteering schedule, or search and apply for available scholarships.
Keep your laser-focused goal at the forefront of your PA school prep during this week. PA school prep is a marathon, not a sprint.
Week 5 - Assess your progress
Evaluate how your goal is progressing. Did you identify a goal worthy of your focus? Did identifying and focusing on this goal help you move forward in your PA school prep? Did you realize that you needed to focus on another goal instead? Do you need to improve your strategy for your next laser-focused goal?
These first 5 weeks should allow you to do the heavy lifting to start your goal. This starting goal will also help you to understand what time commitment will be needed to complete your other goals in the coming months.
If starting a small goal will take you just a few days or a week, make a prioritized list and start knocking them out one by one, but be sure to write down your goals and your schedule to complete them.
Identifying and following through on a specific step in your PA school prep will help you to incrementally build the experience you need. Repeat this 5-week process to turn all of your tasks into short-term, reachable goals to ensure you are competitive and ready to apply to PA school.